Because of you...

Maureen enjoyed her son's birthday

A cherished memory for Kevin King is that his dear wife, Maureen, was able to be at their son’s birthday party, enjoying the occasion with her family around her.

The celebration was not at their home or a typical party venue but at Prospect Hospice, Swindon, where Maureen was being cared for.

Maureen was a proud and devoted mother and grandmother to her four children and six grandchildren and spending time with them was what mattered to her.

Kevin, of Swindon, said: “Maureen loved her children and grandchildren – they were her life, along with me. When she was staying in the hospice for respite care it was our eldest son’s birthday and the staff knew how important her family were to her and encouraged us to have our son’s party there.

“We had it in the garden outside the inpatient unit and the staff took Maureen there in her bed. It was warm and sunny so they put up a parasol to provide shade for her. The children brought food and they and the grandchildren enjoyed it. Maureen absolutely loved it and couldn’t stop talking about it. It is a really special memory.

“It was lovely to see Maureen so happy with our children and grandchildren around her. It meant a lot to us that we were able to be together for our son’s birthday and the hospice made that possible.”

Prospect Hospice staff supported Maureen and Kevin every step of the way after Maureen was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in 2016.

Hospice medical staff helped Maureen adapt to the disease, including teaching her breathing techniques to help her manage her condition.

Kevin said: “Maureen was on oxygen and she used to get very panicky and agitated. Her biggest fear was that she could choke to death. The therapists visited her at home and spent time with her. The breathing techniques they taught her really helped to keep her calm.”

Maureen also attended day therapy sessions at the hospice where she enjoyed taking part in different activities, including creative pursuits such as crafting and silk painting, and meeting other people who were experiencing similar illnesses.

Kevin said: “She didn’t quite know what to expect at the day therapy sessions but went along with an open mind and really enjoyed them as well as meeting and talking to people who were in a similar situation to herself.

“She got involved in a range of activities and it gave her something to focus on other than her illness. She tried things that she hadn’t done before and we discovered she had a hidden talent! The silk paintings she created are framed and on display in the hallway at home.”

Maureen also benefited from a class which taught techniques to help with sleeping. Since becoming ill Maureen had difficulty sleeping at night. What was keeping her awake was worrying about her condition, knowing that the disease was terminal and she could not be cured.

She attended group therapy at the hospice where a member of staff taught her relaxation techniques to help her to sleep.

Kevin said: “It was difficult for Maureen to get to sleep and she wasn’t sleeping well because of the anxiety she was feeling. Some of the techniques she was taught really helped her to have a good night’s rest, which made her feel so much better.”

During her illness Maureen stayed in the hospice’s inpatient unit on three occasions, including in June 2018 when she celebrated her son’s birthday, in order to give Kevin respite from caring for her 24/7.

Kevin, 64, said: “At first Maureen was apprehensive about going into the inpatient unit because she had not seen that side of the hospice and she wondered whether she would come home or not.

“The staff said to her to just try it for a day and when she went in she liked it and got to know the team. She had no hesitation in staying there and she was looked after so well. She was a sociable person so she chose to stay in the ward rather than a single bedroom.”

Maureen and Kevin were also supported by the hospice’s social workers, who helped Kevin to access benefits he was entitled to.

“They were absolutely fantastic. They visited us at home and helped us with anything they could. They would sit and talk to Maureen and I and provided a listening ear and reassurance. There were a lot of forms to fill in and they helped me with that and they were always there if we had a problem or needed help with anything,” he said.

Maureen died in May 2019, aged 60, after contracting pneumonia.

Kevin, who was married to Maureen for 37 years, was so thankful for the outstanding care given by the hospice that he volunteers with the charity.

He joined it three months after Maureen died and volunteers with the retail team. He drives vans and assists van drivers by collecting and delivering donations to the charity’s shops and collecting donated furniture from people’s homes.

He started off doing two days a week, but loved it so much that he gives his time five full days a week.

“Being a volunteer at Prospect Hospice is the best ‘job’ I’ve ever had,” he said. “I enjoy it and I just felt I had to give something back to thank them for caring for my wife. By volunteering I’m helping to spread the word about the hospice and I’m helping it to raise the funds it needs by working with its shops.

“I’m a people person and I enjoy meeting and chatting with people. In my role I often meet people whose loved ones were cared for by the hospice and I can relate to them and what they have been through.”

Find out more about how you can support the work of the hospice with a regular gift here.